The De-Clyne of Australian Rugby - Green and Gold Rugby

The De-Clyne of Australian Rugby

The De-Clyne of Australian Rugby

Cameron Clyne has decided that he has finally done enough for/to Australian Rugby and will not seek re-election as chairman at the Rugby Australia AGM in March next year. During his announcement he highlighted his many achievements as chairman and sought to indicate that his tenure has been positive overall for rugby in Australia. I am sorry Mr Clyne, but I respectfully disagree.

“Notwithstanding the very painful decision to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition and the mixed results of the Wallabies in recent years, “

This statement, for me, sums up Clyne. He has taken the two most significant events of his tenure and summarily dismissed them both as unimportant or secondary. As chairman, Clyne did everything in his power to try and wipe the Force off the map, disenfranchising the third largest rugby community in the country. He also oversaw the greatest decline in the Wallabies ranking and popularity in living memory, thereby disenfranchising most of the rest. I understand why he would like to skip past these dubious “achievements”, but the reality is that these are what will define his tenure when he is judged by history. It is certainly what has defined his tenure as he has been judged by the Australian Rugby public.


“Female participation in rugby has tripled, we’ve seen enormous growth in Sevens participation on the back of the gold medal success of our women’s team”

The growth of the Womens game in Australia is commendable, but his comments require context. Mist of the growth that Clyne talks about here came as a result of the remarkable and awesome upsurge in womens elite sport participation worldwide across all codes, aided substantially by the wonderful run of Aus Womens 7s at the Olympics and the World Series. The problem, 7s aside, is that Rugby is very much being dragged along for the ride in this rather than leading the way. My real fear is that when/if the momentum falls away a bit, there is nothing significant driving continued participation in Womens Rugby in Aus, particularly in the XV’s game. I have said before, Rugby needs to learn from and at least match the opportunities other codes in Australia are offering young up and coming talented sports women, or we will have very few opting for a career in Rugby.

“against global trends in participation we have achieved growth in traditional XVs rugby in several states and territories.”

According to World Rugby (on their website), the total number of registered rugby players worldwide grew from 2.82 million to 3.2 million in 2016 alone. By any measure I have seen, rugby is growing at a much healthier rate globally than it is in Australia. But let’s look at what Clyne has done to grow the game. During his tenure the number of Australian teams in Super Rugby has reduced from 5 to 4, with rumours growing that we will continue all the way back to “the good old days” and make it 3. The NRC, a true vehicle for growth, has struggled through a woeful lack of promotion, which is especially galling when you remember that an offer of $50 million dollars for the NRC was knocked back by Clyne. If Rugby is indeed growing in this country, I would argue it is in spite of rather because of the actions of Cameron Clyne.

160414 Pulver Clyne

Clyne will officially step down in April, meaning there is still plenty of time left for him to exert his influence on RA. There are two major decisions currently pending with RA, a new broadcast deal for Super Rugby and the appointment of a new Wallabies Coach (announced yesterday as Dave Rennie). Both of these decisions are vitally important for Australian Rugby going forward and it concerns me that Clyne will still have his hand firmly in both of these decisions. That means we could still be experiencing Clynes influence 4 years after he steps down from the role. I don’t see this as good business practice, for any organisation. By all means keep him on until he can give a proper hand-over to his anointed successor, but please keep him away from any long term, important decisions please.

There are many who are celebrating the fact that Clyne is stepping down but I don’t count myself among them. Instead I mourn the fact that it didn’t happen sooner and fret about who the replacement may be. In fact, April provides a solid chance for some real generational change on the RA board as there are currently 4 positions open. Please RA, don’t give us another bunch of bankers.



  • Brisneyland Local

    Thanks for the article Brendan and I am so glad to have something to post to whilst the rugby news continues.
    Clyne, I am glad to see him gone. But if he was serious about it he would leave now.

    • Who?

      Thoughts on Rennie?

      • Brisneyland Local

        TO be honest he looks good. All of my Kiwi mates rate him highly. I per se dont have a problem with the choice. Only how and when the choice was made.
        If that makes sense.

        • Brendan Hill

          I agree with this. I wish him best of luck and hope he goes on to become the most successful Wallabies coach ever (as I do with every Wallabies coaching appointment). However it does seem like the die was cast some time ago by RA, despite their insistence that a full and comprehensive search would be conducted to find the best possible coach. Rennie may indeed be that, but if so it looks from the outside more a case of luck than good planning.

        • Brisneyland Local

          If they were transparent about the process there would be a lot less bitching. the problem with RA is that everything is done behind closed doors. Old Boys ties, and all that rubbish. I wish Rennie luck. More so than Cheika. The way Cheika got the job via in internal players coup was bullshit adn should have never been allowed to stand. And all it delivered us was 4 years of shit.

        • Ads

          Agree. Also in the back of my mind is that Cheika probably looked even better on paper with dual hemisphere club wins etc before he started.

          Rennie has said stuff around trying to fix the pathways down to clubs and even schoolboys/girls stuff which is encouraging (and different from Cheika) though.

          Who knows if he will have scope/ability to actually influence any of that. Unlikely.

          Hopefully he can address the skills and game plan deficiencies without dropping the strengths we have built around the tight 5.

        • Brisneyland Local

          I will just be happy when favourites arent played. Players are in the best position based on form. Not because they are Cheika the ass Clowns matey Potatey! And Yes Mr Foley I am looking at you! You to Mr Hannigan!

        • Who?

          It all makes sense, and I totally agree. :-)

      • RF

        Another good managerial appointment who will soon be vilified by the great Australian rugby public, like Eddie Jones, Robbie Deans, Ewan McKenzie and Michael Cheika. With a bit of luck he will last until the Lions tour and then the circle of life will continue with David Wessels.

        • Who?

          I hope we give him a good 12 months to find his feet before making a call. It’s what I try to do. Time for the players to understand him, time for him to implement his systems.
          I don’t think Deans or Cheika turned out to be great coaches. But both were given more than a fair run to show their wares before the public turned. I made a call on Cheika in 2016, most only turned in 2018. By which point he’d failed to have a June series without a loss. I made a call on Deans in 2009, most didn’t start to turn until 2011 and beyond.
          I hope Rennie turns out to be what I see (which is someone who understands both structure and flexibility – I’m quite hopeful), and that he can stick around for long enough for one of Wessels or maybe MacKellar to receive the baton from him.

        • Brumby Runner

          Who?, I’m with you in that I hope he gets a realistic first twelve months at the helm with reasonable, mutually agreed KPIs including improvements in squad, culture, skills and player development as well as results in games, before facing in detail assessment and has a second year to show improvement in results. I hope he goes on to have a very successful period in charge of the Wallabies before handing over to one or more of Wessels, McKellar, Thorn or Sampson (or even Larkham) as they step up to the mark.

          On Cheika, I think I was the very first to call him out as a disappointment operating well below the standard required of a national coach. At the time he was being hailed far and wide as The Great Cheika, I was already calling him the The Great Charlatan. Can’t be sure now, but I think that started even before the RWC in 2015. Pity so many took so long to recognise his short comings as a coach.

        • RF

          Cheika was being pilloried by many from the second he was appointed

        • idiot savant

          And equally worshipped by many.

        • RF

          I would be reserving judgement on him as Wallabies coach until the end of the 2021 season at the earliest.

          He’s coming when the players get together for the Ireland tour next year, then into the Rugby Championship. His first real opportunity to impose himself on the team will be the November tour in 2020 and beyond. First real year for him will be 2021. Let’s see how that goes.

        • Who?

          I’ll probably start making a call on where he’s at somewhere in the middle of the 2021 season, but if there’s trouble and he shows he’s adapting, I won’t write him off. The failure to recognise flaws and change is why I was opposed to Deans, and then to Cheika.
          I remember Phil Gould saying forever ago that it takes a year to impose a new regime. Deans’ time was the perfect example of it – we beat the ABs first game out basically playing Connolly’s systems. By the time we got to SA, he’d managed to dismantle the Muggleton defensive system (which had been incredibly successful), but 8-53 shows he hadn’t managed to impose his own new defensive system. By the middle of the next year, our defence was fixed, and our attack had been purged of the Jones/Connolly/Johnson attacking structures, changed to ‘play what’s in front of you’ Robbie Rugby. Which proved to be a mistake.
          I remember Phil Gould saying forever ago that it takes a year to impose a new regime. Deans’ time was the perfect example of it – we beat the ABs first game out basically playing Connolly’s systems. By the time we got to SA, he’d managed to dismantle the Muggleton defensive system (which had been incredibly successful), but 8-53 shows he hadn’t managed to impose his own new defensive system. By the middle of the next year, our defence was fixed, and our attack had been purged of the Jones/Connolly/Johnson attacking structures, changed to ‘play what’s in front of you’ Robbie Rugby. Which proved to be a mistake.
          All that said, I’m not remotely stressed about him staying in Glasgow through the end of his season. Let’s look at our last three coaches. Deans got the job with a good amount of time, before Super Rugby, but stayed with the Crusaders long enough to win the title. So, he had a short intro. Link got the job immediately following the Lions series, then had something like 6 weeks to figure out what he was going to do before the first game. Cheika, he got the job a week or so before his first Test, coached four Tests, then went back and coached the Tahs through Super Rugby.
          Compared to all of those guys, Rennie looks to have a better run into the gig! More lead time before the job starts, and surprisingly also more time between the end of his season and the start of his time running the Wallabies. Further, unlike the other guys, he’s stepping in with a HPU director or DoR who he knows well and trusts. That’s a pretty good situation. I’m optimistic about him beyond all that, and hope he lives up to my expectations. Which aren’t to win every test, to have a 90+% win ratio. It’s to show progress, to show intelligence, to play as a team. I’m confident the guys on the field will be giving their all, they just haven’t done it with enough Rugby IQ or cohesion recently. That’s where I hope we’ll see changes from Rennie.

        • From NooZealand

          I bet that you (and all of us) will see the seeds in 2020 and maybe with the ABs more than Ireland. Remember there is no “building up” it is facing up.

        • Custard Taht

          I am quite optimistic about the Wallabies under Rennie. There might be clouds around the process for some, but I think RA got the right man for the job.
          He has a good forward pack to build upon, there is plenty of young talent on the way through, and the deadwood will have already left or can be cut without any backlash.
          In his first year, I think his winning percentage will be 50% at least and the Wallabies will play better and more enjoyable rugby to watch.

        • It’s nice, but no surprise to see at least some people here advocating for giving Rennie a while to sort it out.

          While that’s my personal opinion too, of course, I wonder how the wider public, the casual fans, will react to another bad year? We’ll be looking, pointing at signs of better play, better selections, players and combinations showing improvements and rubbing our hands in glee. They’ll be pointing at only beating Los Pumas and someone bad in November. (I think we’ll actually do better than that, Ireland are going to be there to be taken, lots of new players, coach who has never been a head coach before and whose ‘superb defense’ just fell apart, but it could be that bad.)

          If it is a bad year I think the knives will be out even if the signs of improvement we need to see are there and clear.

        • Custard Taht

          I think overall most people will look past a bad year as long as there are signs of improvement….like not getting flogged by England, Scotland the Kiwis for example, and better execution and tactics.

          There will be the usual suspects already sharpening their knives, but the wider rugby population will just pass them off as the rugby equivalent of scientology.

        • idiot savant

          Its hard to imagine that we won’t be as good or not better than our record of the last 2 years. We played exceptionally dumb football under Cheika. Rennie said his approach is to have players play with a positive mindset mixed with a smart kicking game, to shape defences and create opportunities for counter attack, with a massive focus on contact area to create quick ball to stress opposition defences. He also said he wanted a hard edged defence that creates slow ball for opposition. If he succeeds in those ambitions, our win ratio has to improve. I have no doubt that the Cheika worshippers will be death riding him though.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      What and miss out on 6 months of his pay, business trips overseas, champagne swizzling and BBQ’s. That would be cruel

      • Brisneyland Local

        He was a Bank CEO. So we know he has no morals! Or values.

    • Happyman

      True I cannot see us looking back at his tenure with anything other than distain at the lost opportunities.

      Like many in the C-Suite his view is very short term and while short term success is important the position of chairman of the ARU/ RA is a position where you should be passing it along in better condition than you got it and that cannot be said of Clyne.

      I hope the next person is a truly great appointment.

      • Brisneyland Local

        I would be happy with Twiggy or Andrew Demetriou. I have met both. And would be more than happy with either.

        • Patrick

          Andrew Demetrious would be great. He should at least be on the board, surely.

        • Brisneyland Local

          You would hope so. BUt there are apparently a number of people poo poo’ing AD as a suggestion as he is not a rugby man!

  • Agree with you on one thing for sure. THE FORCE should be in. They would out-draw all the other teams especially The Rebels.

  • Perth girl

    Well said Brendan. Clyne tenure has been disastrous for rugby through out Australia not just here in the West

  • Who?

    Completely on board Brendan. Thanks.
    Also… Don’t agree with everything here, but…

    • AllyOz
    • AllyOz

      Bit like you Who? don’t agree with everything but I think the present situation goes beyond simply replacing the personalities on the board and in the executive…part of the problem but not the whole thing. Certainly, and I know everyone won’t agree, but I thought Deans did a pretty reasonable job. I don’t think he had any better players than we have in the current crop and his winning percentage was decent though those that are QC fans will, perhaps rightly, say he had some issues.

      • Who?

        I’m one of the many who won’t agree on Deans. I’d made my call on him in 2009, when he had Barnes and Giteau without any structure. Meaning they had to play what was in front of them, and when what was in front of them was a wall of Black jerseys, they’d shuffle the ball the full width of the field, then end up bundled into touch directly opposite where they received the ball. Or they’d kick it away, then get publicly lambasted by Deans for kicking too much.
        So, effectively, I made my call on Deans before his QC issues.
        And then we had the ‘no back up to Pocock’ dramas of the 2011 RWC, and so on…
        I don’t agree with all the issues. I don’t think highlighting Link and Patston was helpful. Link was Wallabies CEO, Cheika was even more powerful. And having a woman running the off field business doesn’t ever justify the sort of slander, vilification and abuse that Patston faced.
        I don’t even know that I’d agree with the final model proposed by Mr Marks. Because the QRU and NSWRU Boards have shown themselves to be as incompetent as RA’s board – both have had to be bailed out financially by RA in the last decade.
        But it’s good to see people talking about the closed nomination system and the failings of the current governance model!

    • LBJ

      The really interesting aspect of marks article isn’t being discussed yet. It’s the question of returning to a Federated approach to running the game as opposed to the centralisation and control model that is currently in place. As you know I think the Federated model is superior as it puts accountability on the state bodies to prosper (or otherwise). This self-reliance is absolutely one of the reasons for the current success being experienced in both Western Australia and Sydney club rugby. I would also suggest that school boys are operating on self-reliance as well. Certainly Sydney GPS schools are.

      • Who?

        I think you’re misconstruing he terminology mate. :-)
        The approach you’re advocating is a confederacy – where the member provinces have more authority than the central government. Given the current structures have allowed the central body to bail out both of our largest states in the last decade, I see no reason to trust a confederacy any more than a federation. In fact, as well as burning down the central board and the nominations committee, I’d love to see the state unions – certainly NSW and Qld – completely overturned, too. Because they’ve done very little positive in the last decade.
        The issues around our structure are not insignificant, but they’re exacerbated by having incompetent and/or out of touch people in those positions. Solving issues around our structure will significantly assist, but if we end up with another board of Clynes, we’ll still face major problems. It’s arguable that having to fill only one board with competent people might be more achievable – we have a dearth of talent in RA. It’s not a dearth of playing talent, but a dearth of administrative talent!
        And Sydney GPS schools (all schools) have always operated in a self-reliant manner. They’ve always wanted to control their own destiny, the private schools aren’t under RA’s authority (and weren’t under the ARU’s authority). They only exist in Rugby for their own benefit, if they believe it’s not to their benefit, they’ll drop Rugby like a hot potato. So I don’t see any issue with them not receiving money from RA or the state bodies, when they don’t contribute financially (whereas our clubs pay fees to the states and RA for every kid who plays).

    • Patrick

      I disagree with a lot. It actually reeks of “good ol’ days” nostalgia.

      But do any of these guys know what characterised our “good ol’ days”?? It was the fact that we innovated on and/or off the field. Probably our first big innovation was the Ellas. Most of their NH opponents (and probably most of their Kiwi opponents) had just never seen anything like them. That won us a grand slam.

      The second big innovation was a fantastic generation of players and the Randwick style of rugby. That won us a first RWC.

      The third was defensive structures. That won us a second RWC.

      Then we more or less ran out of ideas, and it isn’t by returning to the “good ol’ boys” that we’ll come up with the next ones.

      • idiot savant

        I think Rennie is as sophisticated and intelligent a coach as there is going around in world rugby and I think he will have a positive impact when he gets his hands on our cattle.

        The self indulgent bleating of self entitled Sydneysiders is just that and I agree is very backward looking. Im surprised at Dick Marks. he’s better than that.

        On your version of history, my memory is a little different. The resurgence of Australian rugby in the late 70s came out of Queensland. The Qld side started playing regular matches against NZ provinces and learnt from them. They also had the cattle – Loane, Shaw, Pilecki, McLean etc – and became the only provincial side in Australian history to beat the All Blacks.

        When Dwyer was appointed national coach the first time he arrogantly thought that Randwick rugby was far superior to what the Queenslanders had been playing and promptly dropped McLean for Ella for his first test in charge. Australia got flogged by Scotland as Ella played the naive brand of schoolboy running rugby that was never going to succeed at international level. For the second test he was forced to reinstate McLean and Australia promptly won. Ella on the other hand was a brilliant man who worked out that he couldn’t play that way at international level and modified his game and deservedly became a legend. The majority of Queensland players then made themselves unavailable for Australia as they knew the lack of respect that Dwyer had for turning Australian rugby around. Dwyer was arrogant and divisive and strategically naive at international level and didn’t last long. He too learnt and his second stint was far more astute and inclusive of players north of the border (Horan and Little).

        So it was Jones that coached the slam with Mark Ella relying on Lynagh for strategic kicking and using his magic out wide rather than close in.

        When Dwyer got back in charge he had the benefit of the hard nosed forward style developed in Qld and ironically running backs from Qld with a Qld strategic kicker. So it wasn’t the kind of Randwick rugby of the Ellas nor was it the ludicrous running rugby that the other Randwick old boy Cheika just made the nation live through.

        Thank God Rennie won’t let us suffer ‘the Randwick style’ again.

        • From NooZealand

          Thank you for that lesson on history on a subject that matters.

  • dsb

    Agree with the article. We need a new strategic vision for Rugby in Australia. we need leadership for that at the governance and management level and we need aspirations for all of Australia in that.

  • formerflanker

    If Clyne was serious about RA, he would have commenced the process to replace Board member Anne Sherry. She left in April and he’s done nothing since.
    But suddenly we see a flurry of activity just before he leaves.
    Looks like the desperate flailing of a man who belatedly sees a need to leave a visible legacy.

  • formerflanker

    De-Clyne! Well written.

  • paul

    Yep, its pretty hard to dis-agree with much in this article. Especially regards the back-slapping over women’s growth, as you say just how much of that has been the overall growth with female participation generally and from a pretty small base.

    And Clyne has already stated he is involved in the new broadcast deal.

  • Nutta

    New Chairman. New Coach. Commendable shuffling of deck chairs.

    What will count now is if we see a significant shift in the nature of the bureaucracy and the direction of the ship.

    Will we see a tangible shift to growing the game in easy-access under-developed participation-areas of fast ROI? Or will we see continued pandering to east of ANZAC Parade? Will we see a shift to broader-based talent identification and retention? Or will we see continued over-investment in the chosen few to the exclusion of all else? Will we see the wholehearted & public backing given to a proper 3rd tier development strata with an inherent pathway to higher standards – NRC – or will we see a continuation of ‘Sydney knows best’?

    Most of all, will we see a new leader brave enough to drive towards centralisation and the harnessing of our game towards a singular, clearly articulate and transparently measured set of objectives? Or will we see the same parochialism and maintenance of the same archaic, out-dated, self-mutilating power-structures in-place now?

    What’s done is done. All that we can do is change what happens next.

    I hope for the best. I anticipate the worst.

    • Brisneyland Local

      As always, well said Nutta

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate, there will be no changes until they get in actually change the constitution and make up of the board. Unfortunately that won’t happen until we get people on board who care for Australian Rugby not full of self interest for their own little part of it. The new coach and the new Chairman won’t unfortunately make any difference to that at all.

      • Nutta

        You’re a terrible cynic.

  • Happyman

    Any calls on the replacement


    • JJ


    • Sven Galee

      Thank heavens finally for the end of Pulver/Clyne/Cheika!

      If Twiggy could spare the time to do it, I reckon he would be an excellent fit for the job. Only got to look at how much he’s achieved in various community-beneficial areas to see he has vision, imagination and empathy on top of his obvious business and financial skills. I cannot think of anyone better. But does he have the connections in the weary old-boys club of Sydney rugby?

    • Brisneyland Local

      I would take Twiggy or Demetriou.

  • formerflanker

    There are two major decisions currently pending with RA,

    Plus Clyne’s role as chairman of the nominations committee, ensuring he gets to create a “new” board that supports his agenda.
    For that reason alone he should go now and let the new chair have skin in the game.

    • MungBean

      he wants a loyalist who won’t dig up anything on him

  • juswal

    Clyne and the board: It’s no good hoping that someone is going to get in there and clean the board out and install a better chair. There is no higher authority than the board itself.

    Rennie and Johnson: This is what we’ve been given and we’re stuck with it. I won’t whinge about it. I have the impression that they’re both smart (smarter, at least, than Cheika, McKenzie and Deans) and I don’t think they’ll fail outright. The Wallabies will be better; maybe they’ll be good.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    This article is spot in, well done. What Clyne did to Australian rugby will Take longer to fix than his tenure as Chairman. His leadership characterised what Australian rugby became today: in areas that really matters we are failing dismally, the administration is so out of touch that they do not even realise that the few successes they celebrate were achieved despite of their incompetence while RA continue to struggle from the one crisis to the next. Clyne clearly loves the limelight but not as much as his ego, the same ego that compromised his decisions and ensure that he is clueless and unaware of the damage and havoc he is causing. He stayed ar least three years too long and I would be relieved to see him go. I understand he was not paid, but still managed to be poor value for money.

  • Missing Link
  • From NooZealand

    A bit late reading this, but would someone confirm for me that Brendon got it right: Please RA, don’t give us another bunch of wankers. And to all (writers and readers) a very happy and well deserved brake. Looking forward to 2020. I am sure it is going to be better for the Wallabies with Dave at the helm.
    Thank you all and glad to be part of this bunch. Sincere greetings from Aotoearoa New Zealand.


Just a die hard rugby tragic from West of the Nullabor with a penchant for the written word. Happy to talk anyones ear off about anything to do with this great game, as many a poor work colleague has discovered over the years.

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